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The Heartbeat of a Word

We’ve been considering together what it means to know and walk with a God who says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,  for in these I delight,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

So with our last post we talked about the relationship between God’s lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness. The challenge, as the resulting conversation showed, is to see the way all three work together rather than against one another.

Seems like we’ve begun to see how lovingkindness and justice work together to respond in different ways to the needs of both offenders and victims. Justice does those on the wrong side of the law an unwanted favor by stopping,  restraining, and redirecting them… while responding just as urgently to the cries and needs of those who have been hurt.

In that sense, lovingkindness gives justice a heart and mind that actively responds to the needs of others. Together they come together in the amazing story that comes to a predicted but unexpected climax in the weekend that begins with a day we now call “Good Friday”.

What I have for too long missed is that righteousness also finds a heartbeat and life in the same story. My inclination has been to think of righteousness as a state of moral rightness and compliance, and, at best, as “the gift of rightness” that is transferred to “our account” in the spiritual transaction of the cross.

But slowly it seems to be dawning on me that righteousness is not just compliance to a moral standard, or only the “legal state of relationship” that is ours in Christ. “Rightness” also, as shown by the story of the Bible, has a heartbeat. It too looks like the way Jesus acted in behalf of others. By the way he relates to others the Living Word  shows us the kind of rightness that brings us to the heart of the God who wants us to know him.

The point is that righteousness is not simply a “state of rightness”. It is the relational way God acts for our good… to let us experience his lovingkindness and to enable us to show the same heart to one another.

Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, though formal in language, gives us a summary that shows how “righteousness” breathes, speaks, and acts  when it says, “Righteousness” is not simply an abstraction, but possesses a relational aspect set within the context of God’s covenant with his people…”

EBD continues, “God is, above all others, the righteous one (Isa. 24:16), the one who preserves the covenant relationship by delivering his people with righteous deeds (Judg. 5:11; RSV “triumphs” l Sam. 12:7; RSV “saving deeds” Mic. 6:5; RSV “saving acts”). God also upholds the cause of the oppressed (cf. Ps. 9:7–12 MT 8–13]; 103:6; Prov. 22:22–23), gives justice to the innocent (1 Kgs. 8:32; cf. Isa. 50:8–9), and hears the suit of those in need (Ps. 7:9–11 MT 10–12]; 35:23-24; Jer. 11:20; 12:1). He presses the case against rebellious Israel (cf. Isa. 3:13–15; Jer. 2:9; Hos. 4:1), and calls creation as his witness (Ps. 50:6; 98:7–9; cf. Mic. 6:1–2). Yet for the repentant God’s righteousness takes the form of deliverance (Isa. 45:8; 61:10; cf. 51:4–5). The righteous God calls on his people to make the righteous response of keeping his law (Deut. 6:25; cf. Gen. 6:9) and doing justice (Deut. 24:10–13; Job 29:14–17). To do this is to gain life (Ezek. 18:5–9; Hab. 2:4).”

With that Old Testament background, the same source goes on to say, “According to Paul, Christ is “our righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30)…Christ’s cross is the “act of righteousness” that saves (Rom. 5:18)… Through the sacrifice of Christ believers “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).” Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (888). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.




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11 Responses to “The Heartbeat of a Word”

  1. rxman says:

    Righteousness, as defined by another, is “following the ways of God”. This makes a lot of sense to me. It is not necessarily just a set of rules to follow (although they may be included in a subset of a larger paradigm). If we know what we are supposed to do and not do and we don’t at least make an attempt to “do the right thing” are we being disobedient to God?

    Of course our own righteousness is “like filthy rags” so we need to as a teacher of my once said, “do my part and trust that God will do His part”. So as I see it, God in his lovingkindness will if I follow God to the best of my ability (righteousness), allow justice to prevail. He will impart His righteousness through His Spirit and this will enable me to do the right thing. Also, His justice may not look like I always want it to look but I need to trust that His justice is true.

  2. yooperjack says:

    Mart: I think we covered this topic many times on this blog. To become perfect at anything one has to practice, if we practice what we preach on this blog unrighteousness will become a thing of the past. There will be no choice to do right or wrong.

    Spirits speak to our hearts through thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Picture in your mind a little devil on your left shoulder telling you to do the wrong thing; then picture on your right shoulder a little Holy Spirit telling you to do the right thing, who do you listen to most of the time? The one we feed will live the one we don’t feed will die. Everything we do or say starts with a thought.

    And then there is the flesh we need to crucify on a daily bases, the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the big one, pride.

    We can get to a place in life with the help of the Holy Spirit where doing what is right is a no brainier it becomes as natural as breathing. If we try to get there on our own power we’ll burn out in a short time and be miserable. Don’t let anything steal your joy; life is too short.

  3. davids says:

    I pick up on Jack’s theme. Pride is the enemy of righteousness. On my wall I have the words of Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

    If I could live by that, I think that it would fulfill the word of the law and the prophets. But as I don’t, I rely on the grace delivered through the events of this week.

  4. poohpity says:

    I wonder if in our changing culture if rightness has not become misinterpreted by our present legal system let alone our own definitions of what is right. God set up a system to prevent people from harming themselves and others while causing separation from Him. Romans 3:20 NLT If that was so in A.D. 57 I think our culture today has even made it harder when people say that some things are no longer wrong so what Christ did seems to not make such an impact as it has in the past. As Jack pointed out it sort of looks like a cartoon with the devil on one shoulder and the Holy Spirit on the other.

    Each day it seems we get desensitized to what is wrong and if we feel that there are degrees in sin, as many do, then how marvelous does the atoning work of Christ seem? How hard is it to admit wrongs, blame others or even overlook transgressions?

    The way Jesus acted on behalf of others and just the way he treated others while with them there was no condemning or judging but such mercy and kindness. That alone showed such righteousness (morally upright, without guilt or sin) and the true nature of how our God really cares for us. Those behaviors really displayed a desire for us to get to know Him and to understand the relational desire He had in mind to achieve with us let alone laying down His life so that we could be seen as righteous although so undeserving.

    Today it seems people feel righteous just because their behavior is not as bad as the next guy.

  5. Mart De Haan says:

    Poohpity, you got me thinking that our inclination may be to rest in the fact that we aren’t doing certain sins–rather whether what we are doing reflects Jesus’ attitude toward his Father and others.

  6. poohpity says:

    I long for that type of attitude. I have just lost my way on that journey but I am hoping He will not leave me here.

  7. poohpity says:

    Jesus, because of rightness or righteousness never let things go like, abuse of God’s house, hypocrisy, sin, self righteousness, or wrongs of any kind. He seemed to point them out yet provided a way of redemption for those with contrite hearts. He confronted those issues without condemnation but because He was righteous and to not say anything would have seemed to be giving approval.

  8. remarutho says:

    Pooh, may it be with you as Jesus prayed — “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they (those the Father has given Jesus) also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”…then, John 17:22, 23, 24. Maru

  9. oneg2dblu says:

    pooh… your comment was huge. We are who we claim to be, who we act like, who we believe in, and who we follow and hang with. We create for ourselves our own way. For those of us who now find the church offensive, we carry the demonic possession of that offense. Wherever we carry that possession, we will find a like response coming out of your self again.
    We carry denominational baggage as well, pulling it into everywhere we go, dragging it along like a dead rotting stinking weight upon us, never free to really appreciate how others express their way of Worshiping because it differs from ours. We live by the doctrinal differences and traditions which separate many of the Family of God today as they bring into the Houses of God their separation and our own baggage. We are seeking to find a happy joy filled place there waiting, but we miss the real place where the conversation should be… not on us, but, On Christ Alone. We focus how much the church or God has failed to bring us together, how the church had failed to satisfy the worlds or our needs as we cruise to find the right music, teaching style, size of population, and setting for our needs. Who but the world/satan has brought all this searching upon us when we already should have all we need in Him? Instead of basking in the promises of God, we tip-toe in and ask all those cautiously skeptical questions as we are trying to find some answers to our own lack of faith. The world system has put so many choices on the menu that by the time you’ve read it all and made your personal best choice, the meal has already been served and we again leave unfulfilled. Satan places the spirit of offense in us and we live in it daily, unless we can find that place of rest in Him. There is between the poke of reality and the satanic response of offense, a place to rest. A time to ponder, and a point of letting it go.
    May we all find we can choose to rest between the poke and the offense taken, as we really can find rest in Him who provides for all your needs, if we only have the faith to believe the promises.
    Just because the world hates us, pokes at us, provokes us, tortures us, there is a better place awaiting us, then the one’s who are now captured by the demonic possession of offense. Gary

  10. poohpity says:

    Gary, I do not look for church, for the perfect church because as soon as I walk in the door it becomes imperfect. I really enjoy any kind of music as long as it brings honor and glory to our God and as long as they teach God’s word I feel blessed. Knowing how imperfect I am I do not look for perfection in any other because I have so many areas that need work in my own heart.

    I was just saying right now in my life I am struggling, mourning and weeping. I am in the desert with my faith but I know the Lord will not leave me here.

    Thank you Maru.

  11. oneg2dblu says:

    pooh… I get all that, and I know that is where you are and why I enjoyed your comment so much for it hit home.
    Everything else I stated should have been directed on another post, but I was lazy and just kept writing, it was more general and not specific to you but to those who blame the church today, avoid the church today, and do not participate in the church today as it seems to offend them somehow. I truly know that is not you. The church is where we need to go, we need to grow, and we need to sow! :)

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